Scrolling through endless pictures on my laptop, I couldn’t recall a time when I didn’t have a computer. It seemed so impersonal, intangible, as if I was missing an old friend. I remember my old photo albums that sat in some corner of a room, hardly touched and collecting dust, only to be dusted off after returning home late from a local “Flashback Friday”, with guests gathering around the coffee table; over glasses of red wine and frothy beer.
Any picture of me was just one of many I could have tossed into the trash, that tiny silver trash can in the right hand corner of my laptop, with crumpled up pieces of paper.
I came across one of me sitting on my living room floor, not looking into the camera. I smiled when I saw it, not because I liked the way I looked or thought the picture inhabited any special qualities, but because I remembered that moment in time so vividly. I was living in my one bedroom shoebox of an apartment in Santa Monica and my mom came to visit. A rare occurrence for my mom, even though she lived only an hour away. I lived two blocks from the beach, yet, as tempting as I thought the ocean might be to someone who was surrounded by land, she convinced me time and time again to visit her instead.
So here she was, on my side of town on a Saturday afternoon, to nurse my recently broken heart. There was no agenda, just the sun and blue skies above, and a few hours to spare.
We took a short walk to the beach and back: then I brewed her some tea that I poured over ice. She sat on my red velvet couch drinking iced tea while I unwaxed my 9-foot surfboard, creating a baseball size mound of dirty wax, only to start all over again. My mom was on the other side of that picture, “Oh, I have to take a picture,” she said, scrambling for her camera. She was obsessed with taking pictures; her camera practically attached to her hip. Though normally I’d be annoyed, I looked up with half a smile to appease her. “No, no, just as you were,” she went on. So, I looked back down and remained engrossed in my task. I remember the bubble gum scented wax, and the calm that came over me, just knowing she was there.
“Wow, that’s a lot of work,” she said, when I finished the last of the wax. I picked up my board awkwardly, almost knocking over a chair, and placed it on a rack bolted to my orange sherbert painted wall. “You’re going to surf that?” she asked, her eyes following my clumsy maneuver.
“That’s the idea, mom,” I laughed.
“That’s good, mija. It’s good to keep busy,” she encouraged.
She got up and went into the kitchen. Then picked up my dying plant, took it to the sink and gave it some water, and placed it back on the window sill. “You just need to give it a little water and attention,” she said, making a face that said she knew I’d abandoned my plant, but was otherwise forgiven.
“I’ll try, mom,” I said, knowing it would come back to life for a little while, only to have her save it again. Shortly after, she grabbed her keys from the coffee table, and I couldn’t help but ask at the door, “Do you think you can stay a little longer, Mom?”
“You’d like that?” she asked, as if she didn’t hear the sadness in my voice. I nodded in response, feeling the lump in my throat.
She walked back into the kitchen. “Well, then,” she said, opening the refrigerator door, “let’s see what you have here that we can make for dinner.”